You don’t have to be in Spain very long before you are introduced to a Serrano Ham – Jamón Ibérico. One of these delicious air-dried hams that down here are called ‘Jamón Ibérico’, which hangs invitingly from the ceiling in most self-respecting tapas bars and eateries. Aham that is cut into fine, thin slices by expert hands and which here in Spain are eaten as the ultimate delicacy – fine and rich in taste – and which can also easily cost a small fortune.
Historically, this Spanish ham dates back to times of the ancient Celts and the Romans for whom this also was a considered an almost sacred delicacy.
The finest Serrano Ham – Jamón Ibérico comes from a pig called ‘Pata Negra’ (black foot), a breed that is particularly suitable for turning into the finest cured hams. Compared to most other ordinary pigs, these ‘Pata Negra pigs live a luxurious life in the open fields and forests. They are fed with plenty of good and natural feed – i.e. with ‘bellotas’, acorns from the Spanish oak trees -corn, fresh grass, herbs, roots and olives. We are talking about animals sauntering happily around in large outdoor and natural areas and are guaranteed to be petted behind the ears at least once a day! It is possible that these pigs live better than the farmers themselves, in any case, this is real ‘pig welfare’. After the well-nourished pig is slaughtered, cut to size and salted – they are stored for up to 36 months for curing. Rather Spanish, you might say, to take so much time – but what a result. When the pigs finally turn into good ham, after a life of luxury, they end up as some of the most exclusive products found in the butcher’s shop and can reach a squealing kilo price. A cycle that benefits everyone: the pig farmer is happy and curls his tail himself, and the product is national top quality and therefore always something you can use at tapas bars and in fine butcher shops.
The Serrano Ham – Jamón Ibérico meat is exported all over the world and the customers all know that this is a sought-after quality product. Expensive, but rich in quality – and therefore buys the ham in smaller and more modest portions. This again is good for health, precisely because this is all about quality and not about quantity. A dish that remains a sought-after delicacy.
In fact, the Ibérico ham is a success story all around. You probably have already, but if not, then you should try this culinary piece of Spanish cuisine and enjoy it with a glass of good Spanish wine. It’s not necessarily the most expensive that’s the best, it’s all a matter of personal taste and palate. Several good books and articles can be found about the Serrano ham and even the official Spanish Tourists authorities have good information about this wonderful little delicacy:
‘Buen provecho – Bon appetite – Enjoy!’
Also read about the famous “Churros”